Mobile BroadbandMany cruising people have found out the hard way how expensive mobile phones can be abroad. Subscribers pay for incoming calls and if the message divert is left on, large bills can build up even when the phone is turned off. A dial-up internet connection on a mobile would be ruinously expensive, and prohibitively slow. But used properly, a mobile phone becomes an essential item on board – especially within Europe where coverage is so widespread. A new ‘always-on’ internet connection has now achieved virtually world-wide coverage and allows a mobile phone to access the internet at speeds similar to a dial-up connection on a land-line. GPRS (General Packet Radio Service and not to be confused with GPS) can now be installed simply, to interface a laptop to a mobile phone at a reaonsable cost.

VetusThere are two steps to connect. A laptop without Bluetooth capability needs a simple USB adapter which can be bought for around £15 (see right). Once the computer and handset recognise each other, the mobile service provider registers the account as GPRS ready. The precise cost of the service will depend upon the mobile company’s tariff, but they all charge for the data used. O2, for example, charges £2.35 per megabyte within the UK, rising to between £5 and £7 overseas. But if you use email sparingly, this can cover a lot of messages. An emailed GRIB weather forecast, for example, takes up just 45kb - less than 50p. O2 also has a very useful (and free) helpdesk to get you up and running. Go to: